Tucked away on the ground floor of the Doubleday & Cartwright offices in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an agency responsible for the groundbreaking and elegant sport-focused Victory Journal, and countless fine art-imbued commercial sports campaigns, Kimou “Grotesk” Meyer can be found in his studio making things. Lots of things. As one of the principles of Doubleday, the Swiss-born artist has helped turn sports imagery into an art, but there is also a versatility in his craft that has emerged in numerous personal projects: watercolors, murals, cartoons, installation, sculpture and poster art. The question, as always, is how to find a balance between the commercial and personal, and where those categories separate and blend.
This October, Grotesk and Juxtapoz will revisit the artist’s Newsstand project as a public art installation in the heart of NYC’s Times Square. Based on Grotesk’s cover illustration for Juxtapoz in 2009, an ode to the old NYC and Times Square newsstands from an era long ago, this particular installation will be, in a sense, making a homecoming. More to the point, it captures the strength of Grotesk, a mixture of curation and natural talent that has made his own career so expansive. The project gave us a chance to sit down once again, to talk about the symmetry of commercial life and personal art, how Doubleday & Cartwright and Victory Journal have shaped his process, and how a love of cartoons and outsider art helped him build his own universe.
At that time, there were great classes in the history and philosophy of art, but then I got so into the things you get into at that age—skateboarding, hip hop, punk culture, and I noticed how rebellious the graphic designers were, in their way. A Black Flag flyer was something that was more inspiring to me than a Picasso painting. So I kind of put all that stuff, the fine art, on the back burner, and I really started to feel more passionate about all the early graffiti and punk rock and hip hop scenes. I moved to New York, and all of sudden, I could live the dream to just endorse that culture. Now, sixteen years after I arrived, I’m married with two kids, I have a company, and all my friends are still saying to me, “When are you going to stop being a teenager and listening to dumb songs?” I don’t think I can ever take that out of my body.
When I finished high school, I was torn between architecture and design. My dad, who was an architect, was like, “Don’t do that! You’re going to ruin your health.” And that was very good advice. Then I debated about anthropology because I was fascinated by North American Indians and African masks. I always liked primitive and outsider art. But, then again, in their safe, Swiss way, my parents advised, “Well, why don’t you do graphic design, because at least you’ll get a job. I don’t know if you are going to really make a living in anthropology if you went to study masks in Africa.”
Funny enough, my end-of-high-school art project was to create a whole fictional tribe language with fake masks. Recently, I saw it in my parents’ attic, and it was, in a way, amazing, because it looks subconsciously like shit that I’m doing now! I forgot this style and influence was so present early on.